By JAMISON STEVENS
In November, Citrus Valley’s performing arts department presented the first major concert of the year—the Fall Concert for the band and choir. For freshman, it was their high school premiere; for seniors, it was the beginning of their final salute as they move forward; for teachers, it was another semester of rehearsals filled with all the joys and frustrations that come with teaching the arts. Altogether, it was the first time of the school year for the band and choir classes to show to family and friends what they have been working on for the past three months. Ethic News was able to experience a detailed view of what happens in rehearsal, behind the stage and during these exciting and entertaining concerts.
One week before the concerts, the thought of the upcoming performances lingered in the air, be it either for the constant reminders to students of the dates on which they were to perform or the ever-solidifying sound of the music they were playing or singing. Respective band and choral directors Austin Meiners and Kimberly Anaya were responsible for teaching and rehearsing a vast array of pieces—some extremely difficult—with seven different performing arts classes, six of which performed at the fall concerts: String Orchestra, Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble, Beginning Men’s Choir, Advanced Mixed Choir and Intermediate Women’s Choir, more than two-hundred different students with their own talents, needs and personalities. On top of the classes that performed, smaller ensembles for both band and choir were arranged by the students with minimal or no help from the teachers. These included the Brass Quintet and Woodwind Quintet, as well as a number of solos, duos, quartets and even an octet performed by the choir students.
Despite the detailed attention, rigorous effort and extensive time that is required with the job, Meiners and Anaya both expressed their optimism regarding the upcoming performances. Said Meiners, “This is an exciting concert for our wind bands as this is the most difficult repertoire we have put together in my tenure at CVHS. Students have been doing an excellent job of balancing the needs of different ensemble sound and structure with the marching season lining up with their concert bands. Should be a very thrilling performance.” Along the same lines, Anaya said, “I wanted to try something new this year. My goal was to have students in my top classes understand what it meant to ‘really know their part’ and to have ownership of their song. [Some] ensembles…were rehearsed by students themselves without my help. The end product is pretty impressive!”
Students themselves, who also have been working very hard learning, practicing and perfecting their music likewise felt the excitement that comes with an upcoming concert. Riley Nuñez, a sophomore who plays trumpet in the Symphonic Band related, “I feel like the concert’s going to go pretty well. [We’ve] been working pretty hard on it. It sounds pretty good in class; hoping it’s going to be even better in the concert.” Wind Ensemble, the advanced band consisting mostly of seniors and juniors, had particularly challenging music selected for the concert as expressed by senior Julianne Trammell, trombonist. “We’ve been working on the music…for months; it’s not easy music. It’s a lot more complex…so we’ve been working on fixing up the small [things]…for the past couple weeks, so it should be fairly decent.”
The day of the band concert was filled with all the anxieties that come with a debut performance. Rehearsals in the theatre that morning were somewhat shaky at first, but confidence eventually increased as the realities of the day were setting in the minds of all the students who were to perform. Last-minute fixes and adjustments were made in terms of tone and balance, and eventually determination and certitude was heard in their sound. Any worries were soon to be assuaged that night.
One hour before the concert began, students were scurrying around changing into the proper concert attire and going over the music themselves. Parent-helpers were equally busy preparing the baked goods and fundraising items that were to be sold that night as parents began to join the line that eventually stretched out into the quad. At 7:00, the concert began.
The concert opened with a performance by the Brass Quintet—including seniors Natalie Arles on horn, Brockton Stover, Corbin Grino and Korey Stier on trumpet, Kaitlyn McCormick on trombone and Jacob Allen on tuba—followed by the Symphonic Band—consisting mostly of freshman and sophomores—which performed a variety of pieces from a medley of well-known compositions by Australian composer Percy Grainger, to a very American-sounding overture conceptualizing Yellowstone National Park, to an exciting, rhythmic fanfare of a piece, to an arrangement of a number of classic Christmas tunes in honor of the coming season. Overall the final performance by the underclassmen was extremely solid and assured parents and teachers that the caliber of performance would be maintained in future years.
An arrangement of a popular Baroque piece followed, performed by the Woodwind Quintet, which was formed this year including Dante Dullas on flute, Cheryl Green on oboe, Kaylee Ramos on clarinet, Xochitl Hidalgo on bassoon and Natalie Arles on horn, adding yet another talented instrumental ensemble to the mix. The String Orchestra was next to perform, beginning with a light, lyrical piece and an arrangement of a Jewish folk song, followed by a rhythmic arrangement of an old Christmas hymn. They concluded with themes from Vivaldi’s “Gloria,” a classic among choir students.
Finally, the time came for the advanced ensemble—Citrus Valley’s esteemed Wind Ensemble—to perform their repertoire, beginning with an attention-grabbing, ceremonial “Festival Prelude” by American composer Alfred Reed. Next was the iconic concert band piece, the “First Suite in E-flat” by British composer Gustav Holst. Before beginning, Meiners took a moment to dedicate the performance of the three-movement piece to current assistant principal and previous band director Scott Nelson, an ardent admirer of the piece. The students certainly paid the piece its due. Last on the program was the extremely difficult “American Salute” by composer Morton Gould, known for its intense technical rigor, but nonetheless the Wind Ensemble performed it to near perfection. Finally, as a surprise encore, Meiners had the band perform one more very patriotic piece by composer Sousa: the iconic “Stars and Stripes Forever,” performed loudly, boldly and unmistakably American. At the end of the night, the applause was overwhelming.
The next day—the day of the choir performance—was equally filled with the same anxieties and concerns that had troubled the rehearsals of the band, but again these worries were to be alleviated by their performance that night. Similar to the band, the choirs were having trouble with minor details which could be deadly during the concert if left untouched. Final reminders during class and lunch rehearsals were given to the students as to what time the concert began, what they were to wear and when to get on stage.
Half of an hour until the concert was to begin, every choir student—over 100 in total—was in the choir room warming up with Anaya listening to her final words of wisdom before going out to the theatre. The time quickly came, and students began lining up at the back door as the first performance—a quartet arrangement of the national anthem with Autumn Mira, Shelby Muniz, Matt Garcia and Jesse Gomez—began. For some in the Beginning Men’s Choir, the most stressful part of the night was not performing in front of the large audience, but rather remembering their cues to get on stage, especially with a group consisting mostly of nervous freshman. Finally, the Beginning Men’s Choir, Forte, was cued to the stage.
With Anaya as director and Sophia Ohanian from the University of Redlands as accompanist on piano, the first pieces began, a rearrangement of the famous piece “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven, accompanied further by a brass quintet from Wind Ensemble and a Spanish lullaby. For the next piece the men from the Advanced Mixed Choir, Lumiere de Chanson, joined Forte for a piece that both groups had learned at a singing clinic a few weeks prior. A solo by Jack Sennett of the Beatle’s song “Let it Be” followed, after which Forte concluded with John Lennon’s famous ballad “Imagine” and an arrangement of “Jingle Bells.” So ended the beginning of the concert, which was the product of months of hard work, especially on Anaya’s side.
A duet of “One Less Bell to Answer” with Sarah McClung and Jenna Mercer was followed by arguably the most impressive ensemble of the night: an octet of students including Lizzie Gaitan, Lindsay Ray, Chris Windley, Saman Haddad, Ricky Wilcox, Noel Casteneda, Daniel Plumb and DW Hernandez, most from Lumiere de Chanson, performing Toto’s song “Africa,” which boasted thick harmonies, an impressive range from the lead tenor and skilled beatboxing. Another duet with Stephanie Smith and Bela Medellin, this time performing the classic “Somebody to Love,” was followed by the Intermediate Women’s Choir, Voix du Ciel, performing a version of the Kyrie from the Latin Requiem and the rhythmic “Chilly Water” by Paul Caldwell and Sean Ivory. Two more solos by Josh Tran and Shaelen Gagatam followed up the intermediate girls before they finished with two songs, the final being a bouncy arrangement of “Little Jack Frost.”
The evening concluded with one final performance from Lumiere de Chanson: the song “Gaudete!”, an old sacred carol sung a capella which showed all the underclassmen just what it takes to join the advanced class. Finally, the concert finished with a quartet of Citrus Valley’s Alma Mater including Alyssa Yabuno, Emma Loney, Jaemil Haboud and Xavier Sandoval. The full house thundered with applause, giving the performing students their deserved recognition.
Choir students related afterwards their thoughts on the concert. Said senior Emma Loney from Lumiere de Chanson, “It was nice that it didn’t completely consist of slow festival music and that it also had some pop music and even a Christmas songs.” Zackaria Aburajab, a senior from Forte, reflected, “It was good! We had a hiccup or two but it was fine…The girls did amazing, good job for them…The guys did really good, I’m proud of us on “Duermete.” It was pretty good.”
If the Fall Concert showed the school anything, it is this: the performing arts department is a vital aspect of any school nationwide. Therein students are able to apply their natural talents, or even bring out dormant ones, not just to the commonplace subjects that are required in schools, but, more importantly, to creating something truly unique—an expression of beauty and art and self, all contained within the notes played by an instrument, the lyrics sung by a singer, or even the lines performed by an actor. No other subject is able to draw out such passion or excitement or frustration or relief as that of art. This was clearly demonstrated from the beginning freshman to the advanced senior, from the youngest flautist to the oldest tenor, each and every one person in the classes that performed in this Fall Concert—and especially the teachers who worked tirelessly behind the scenes—demonstrated just how important and special the performing arts are.